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French economy minister slams austerity in bombshell resignation speech

media Arnaud Montebourg Reuters / Remy de la Mauviniere

Arnaud Montebourg delivered a blistering attack on the austerity policies favoured by the French president and prime minister as he walked away from his job as economy minster in a dramatic press conference on Monday afternoon.

He declared “erroneous” the priority of reducing public spending in a bid to cut the French deficit, in line with demands from the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Montebourg insisted that numerous leading economists and world leaders disagreed with the French government’s approach and he called for an end to “absurd” austerity policies which he stated flatly “don’t work”.

“Not only does it not work, not only is it inefficient, it is also unfair”, he continued before exclaiming “Yes, there is another way”.

In a highly personal speech he revealed that for a long time he had “sent notes, letters” to Hollande accompanied by facts and figures in an ultimately vain attempt to persuade him to change course.

Abandoning the careful language of a cabinet minister, he said “we must interrupt this sinking of the economy through austerity”.

Montebourg said that he had chosen to reclaim his liberty, to uphold his convictions and he thanked two colleagues who he announced had also decided to give up their cabinet positions: Aurélie Filippetti who relinquished her post at culture and Benoît Hamon, who leaves the education ministry just one week before the all-important start of the school year in September.

All three are on the left of the Socialist party.

The parliamentary party is now in crisis, with a large faction of rebels on the left of the party who now seem ready to defy the government in a probable upcoming vote of confidence on the government’s economic direction.

Tomorrow Valls will announce his new cabinet.

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